A strange quirk of fate has embroiled Portugal in one of Poland’s darkest contemporary mysteries: the plane crash in Russia six years ago that claimed the lives of former president Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 MPs and senior military figures.
Head of Coimbra university’s medical faculty Duarte Nuno Vieira has been chosen to take part in a team undertaking new autopsies of bodies that were not cremated after the tragedy.
These include the remains of Kaczynski and his wife.
The investigation has launched by Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw – now in power as the leader of Poland’s Law and Justice party – against a backdrop of so many questions that the mind boggles.
Vieira is likely to be in Poland until almost the end of the week, says TSF radio, and even so the inquiry is unlikely to reach any type of conclusion for months.
Vieira has also stressed this investigation is under Secrecy of Justice, and he cannot divulge more than the bare minimum.
It is a nail-biting situation, with the spectre of a stony-faced Russia in the background, and a Poland vulnerable on what the Guardian newspaper calls “the far-eastern flank of the EU and NATO”.
As news stories in 2010 explained, Russia carried out the original investigation into the crash.
Kaczynski and his fellow passengers were about to touch down in Smolensk (western Russia) to attend a ceremony commemorating the assassination of 22,000 countrymen by Russian secret services during WWII.
Investigators ruled the crash was an accident caused by a combination of bad weather and human error, but many in Poland suspect Kremlin sabotage – particularly Kaczynski’s twin brother.
Speaking at a ceremony to announce the new investigation earlier this year, Poland’s defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, hinted at an explosion as a possible cause, saying that the plane disintegrated above ground before crashing.
Video footage released online since the tragedy suggests “there were survivors, who were shot where they lay”.
Thus Vieira has a very important mission, alongside five fellow medical professionals from Britain, Switzerland and Denmark, and 11 other experts from Poland.
For those who can remember a children’s film in the early 60s called “The Two Who Stole the Moon”, the twin actors were none other than Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw.